Home Vashon Living Washington State Ferries: Cold Hands, Warm Hearts, Smooth Sailing

Washington State Ferries: Cold Hands, Warm Hearts, Smooth Sailing

Washington State Ferries: Cold Hands, Warm Hearts, Smooth Sailing
Washington State Ferry magic portal (photo: my talented friend Sam Spencer)

Washington State Ferries: My Mode of Transportation

When you live on an island, and your only way off the island is by ferry, rider opinions arise as frequently as exhaust fumes from a ship’s funnel.  Some islanders have a contentious relationship with the ferry system, its policies, its fares, its maintenance delays. (They usually don’t last long here—the people, not the issues.) But anyone who has walked on a westbound ferry at sunset, or stood on the bow when the full moon floats over Puget Sound, or hunkered down in a car while whitecaps whale broadside, or stood on the car deck when Puget Sound shines like a looking glass, there is no better means of transportation with one exception: having wings.

Winter sunsets fall south of the Olympic Mountains; summer sunsets, far north.

And for every stunning moment, there is likely a regrettable bookend of events that challenges one’s humanity: line cutters, lengthy backups, vessels down, summer delays. And wedged in-between it all, you’ll find the ferry crew. I have my favorites: the ones who always smile, give me a nod and Buddy a treat; the laughing mate who regularly asks me when I’m going to get a new truck and how’s my day going; and all the crews who direct my vehicle onto the vessel with authority, clarity and confidence.

Rainer View: The south-end ferry from Vashon to Tacoma

Of course there are some who load a boat like its a game of charades, using hand gestures and signals that seem to spell out “movie: two words, eight syllables” rather than merge to the lane port-side and stop. I’m sure it can be a thankless job, loading and offloading a good number of cranky commuters and impatient visitors, so I tip my hat to all the wonderful crew members of the Washington State Ferries, and thank them for bringing me home safely and without incident throughout the year.

Ready to dock in West Seattle, near Lincoln Park.

And just this last week, I was reminded that riding a ferry is a two-way street—make that shipping lane. As I approached the dock to park and wait for the ferry on a freezing cold day (by Pacific Northwest standards), the ticket taker, cheeks as red as a blush of cherries, scanned my pass, and ask “How are you today?” I answered, “Freezing my be-jeebers off.” Of course the minute those whiney words left my chapped lips from inside a heated car with seat warmers, I winced, and tried to cover my clueless tracks with, “Forget about me, how are you faring in this cold snap! Bet you’re chilled to the bone.” She smiled, and said, “Thanks for asking, I’m good and bundled up, and besides a passenger just dropped off a box of hand warmers for us. Wasn’t that nice.”

I replied, “Dang, all I have for you is a big old thank you.” To which she replied, “You know, that is plenty good and most appreciated.” We both laughed as she directed me to lane one. Sometimes an unexpected acknowledgment, a simple thank you, is all someone needs to make their day, and warm their heart (even without the benefit of hand warmers.)

Thank you Washington State Ferries!

Heading home, and waiting for the ferry on the West Seattle dock: quite a show.

Well wishes to you and yours for the coming year, and thank you for your readership, kind presence and heartfelt comments here on Tall Clover Farm.


  1. Those lovely pictures make me homesick for Vancouver and the Island. In terms of natural beauty, it tops everything, in my opinion. Your reminder to us all of the fact that this time of year is especially about kindness and compassion for our fellow human beings is timely indeed. Best wishes to you and Buddy for a happy holiday season and a very merry Christmas. I know you’ll make it happen. The only peace I can realistically wish you for 2017 is peace in your heart and in your home. Best wishes to you and to all your grateful followers.

    • Sandra, I completely agree. I’ve spent a lot of time in Vancouver, it is just so stunning. I have such vivid memories of the parks and neighborhoods, Lonsdale, Kerrisdale, Kitsilano, the Lions Gate Bridge… have you been to Cathedral Grove on the island?

  2. i have such fond memories of cruising the san juan islands on ferries. i love where you live. i hope you and buddy have a wonderful xmas. i see you might be in for some good xmas weather? none here…just rain.

  3. Merry Christmas to you and Buddy,

    Thank you for the joy and gift of your writing that allows one the luxury of realizing how fortunate we are.

    Thanks for taking us on your journey of life. I wonder how many eyes sparkle when they read your words?

    V and The Furry Gang

  4. Thanks for sharing the stunning photos — and your appreciative inside view of the whole island/ferry experience. It is another reminder too, of how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful world, particularly those of us who live in the West — and other places where nature still tops man’s efforts to blot out the view of anything other than buildings, roads and strip malls. Living in the desert suits me, I think, better than living on an island — but we share the same glorious mountains and sky, from opposite directions! You are so right about thanking those who serve and work. If we don’t appreciate the small moments and everyday kindnesses, we don’t participate fully in our own humanity. Many big hugs to you and Buddy, and thanks, as always, for sharing your world.

  5. A great reminder to thank all the wonderful people who make it possible to live on Vashon Island. Thanks for your good thoughts.

  6. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Tom and Buddy! I am so glad that I found your website. Sometimes you make my day brighter after reading your heartfelt thoughts and observations. I love the way you write. You have a wonderful gift. (I get cranky if you haven’t written something in a while. And then I worry about you and hope that you and your loved ones are alright.)
    I agree that we need to remember to show or say how we appreciate workers who keep the wheels turning (so to speak.) We live on a street just above the little town of Ruston where we have a peek-a-boo view of the Chetzemoka ferry as it crosses from Pt. Defiance to Vashon. I am in love with how the ferry crossing is such an iconic reminder of the beauty of this area.
    I heartfelt thank you from this reader.

  7. What a great post, and photos as well. I always am sure to be very pleasant and appreciative of everyone in service professions, I used to be a cashier and I’ll always remember how great it felt when a customer was kind. I read awhile ago the number one regret people have as they reach the end of their life is “if only I’d been kinder to everyone.”

    And hey a new perspective of my beloved Lincoln Park! 😀

  8. Merry Christmas, Tom and Buddy! A lovely reminder that when we (I) feel empty-handed, we can always give the gift of a smile, and a word of appreciation and encouragement.

  9. Merry Christmas Tom and Buddy. Tom, you are a treasure and thank you for letting us see your world through your eyes. I live on Vancouver Island and had never thought about the ferrys and the crew the way you do. I will rectify that!! Thank you.


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